Women in every culture have ways of working together to stop violence. We honour these strengths.
Barbra Schlifer Commemorative Clinic offers legal services and representation, trauma-informed counselling and multilingual interpretation to diverse women who have experienced violence. We cultivate women’s skills and resilience by fostering their safety, dignity, and equality, and we amplify women’s voices to create individual and collective change. At the Clinic, the umbrella term “woman” recognizes that gender is a self-identification that does not necessarily correspond with assigned sex at birth. We recognize the complexity and diversity of gender and aim to be inclusive to people outside and across the gender spectrum.
Since its founding in 1985, the Clinic has assisted more than 100,000 women and gender-diverse survivors of violence through our direct services, advocacy efforts, legal reform, submissions, projects, and programs.
- Legal help in family, immigration, criminal and sexual assault law
- Therapeutic counselling, information, and support through group-based and individual counselling programs from compassionate and skilled counsellors, employing diverse and culturally appropriate methodologies
- Multi-lingual interpretation and translation, including over-the-phone interpretation (access to an interpreter in less than 60 seconds) and video remote interpreting through a Deaf interpreter.
We advocate for law reform and social changes that benefit women. We also provide professional development opportunities for service providers.
- Deepen Our Service Impact: Inspiring Expertise in Action
- Drive Systems Change: Advancing Rights for Women
- Develop Our Organizational Resilience: Building Leadership and Sustainability
Barbra Teena Schlifer
The Barbra Schlifer Commemorative Clinic was created in memory of Barbra Teena Schlifer.
Barbra was an idealistic young lawyer who was murdered in Toronto on the day of her call to the Bar of Ontario, April 11, 1980. She was returning home from celebrating this milestone when she was brutally sexually assaulted and killed in the basement stairwell of her apartment building.
Barbra’s death changed the lives of those who were close to her and they resolved to use her tragedy as a springboard for changing the world. Frances Rappaport and Patricia Ashby, who had once planned to be her law partners, decided to establish a clinic in Barbra’s honour to make the difference that Barbra had hoped to make as a lawyer.
In September 1985, the Barbra Schlifer Commemorative Clinic opened its doors at 188 Dupont Street in Toronto.
On April 11 of that same year the Mayor of Toronto, Art Eggleton, proclaimed April 11th Barbra Schlifer Day. It had been five years since her death.
The Clinic currently receives referrals from countless community-based agencies, as well as medical, legal and justice professionals, religious organizations and individuals concerned about violence against women.
History of the Clinic
Barbra Schlifer’s senseless death sent shock waves across Toronto and the country.
Out of this terrible event, a new dream was born. Barbra’s friends (who were to be her law partners), Frances Rapaport and Patricia Ashby, established a clinic in her honour that would commemorate her life and make the difference that she had hoped she would have as a lawyer.
Four women who became instrumental in opening the doors of the Clinic were Elizabeth Stewart, Jennifer Sunley, Helen LaFountaine, and Mary Bruce Dauphinee. As months grew into years of visioning and planning, these four women never relented, never wavered, and never lost sight of their goal.
On April 11, 1985, five years after Barbra’s death, then Mayor of Toronto, Arthur C. Eggleton proclaimed April 11th “Barbra Schlifer Day,” and in September 1985, the Clinic opened its doors at 188 Dupont Street in Toronto.
Initially, the Clinic provided a unique combination of free legal and counselling services for women who had experienced partner assault, child sexual abuse and sexual assault. In 1987 an interpreter service for non-English speaking women who had experienced violence was introduced. Since then, the Clinic has added innovative programs and grown in size and significance. In addition, the Clinic has become an expert in a range of gender violence that goes beyond domestic violence, partner assault, and child sexual abuse. Increasingly, we are active in such issues as forced marriage, honour-related violence, and gender persecution from state perpetrators and non-state actors in the international context.
Since February 1995, the Clinic’s major fundraising event has been “A Tribute to Friendship” (The Tribute). In addition to raising funds, this annual special event helps the Clinic to enhance its public image, increase contact with its supporters, and provide public education.
To see more historical pictures, view our Historical Photo Album on Facebook.
Mission & Vision
Barbra Schlifer Commemorative Clinic offers legal services and representation, trauma-informed counselling and multilingual interpretation to diverse women who have experienced violence. We cultivate women’s skills and resilience by fostering their safety, dignity and equality and we amplify women’s voices to create individual and collective change. At the Clinic, the umbrella term “woman” recognizes that gender is self-identification that is not necessarily correspondent with assigned sex at birth. We recognize the complexity and diversity of gender and aim to be inclusive to people outside of and across the gender spectrum.
Through the building of local and global partnerships, we envision a world where women live free from violence. We are committed to working alongside communities to create autonomy and self-determination for women, informed by their diverse experiences, needs, and choices.
- Violence against women means any act of violence that results in, or is likely to result in, physical, sexual or psychological harm or suffering that may include financial, structural, and institutional abuse to women, including threats of such acts, coercion or arbitrary deprivation of liberty, whether occurring in public or private life.
- Violence against women happens in all cultures. It is based on an abuse of power, results in inequality, and affects all relationships through the generations.
- Diverse women and men globally have worked and will continue to work together to stop gender-based violence. We recognize, honour, value and cultivate the work that has come before us in our commitment to finding sustainable solutions in the present.
Anti-Oppression and Feminism
We are a trauma-informed, intersectional feminist organization. Our work is informed by diverse women’s movements and experiences and we support the struggles of BIPOC (Black, Indigenous and People of Colour) and their achievements against oppression, colonialism, racism and other forms of discrimination.
Our work is rooted in compassion, viewing the world from multiple perspectives.
Our work is grounded in a reflective practice that continually examines power imbalances and builds our collective awareness and ability to work towards equitable responses and solutions.
Partnerships and Networks
We work in partnership with local, national and global movements to amplify diverse women’s voices against systemic and structural oppression.
Autonomy and Self-Determination
We respect and promote women’s autonomy to make the choices that are best for them as we support them in their journey to freedom from violence.
Board of Directors
oard of Directors
- Mel Hogg, Chairperson – Chief Administrative Officer, OPG
- Anna Matas, Vice-Chairperson – Senior Lawyer at Gillian Hnatiw & Co.
- Alena Thouin, Secretary – Chief Operating Officer, Ontario Financing Authority
- Anju Kukreja, Treasurer – Partner Deloitte
Members At Large
- Jackie Burns – Children’s Author and Freelance Journalist
- Angela Chaisson – Counsel, Millard & Company
- Elaine Goulbourne – Director, Clinical Resources at Women’s College Hospital
- Tamara Huggins – Project Director, WVL-CARIBBEAN Equality Fund
- Mary Jackson – Chief Officer, Professional Resources, Blake, Cassels & Graydon
- Rosemarie Juginovic – Senior Criminal Counsel, Office of the Chief Justice, Ontario Supreme Court of Justice
- Jeanette Manguiat – Director of Human Resources and Administration, YWCA Toronto
- Hilda Wong – Senior VP, General Counsel, Chief Privacy Officer and Chief Anti-Money Laundering Officer
- Saba Zia – Senior Counsel, RBC
Join our Board of Directors. Please download, fill in and email the
to [email protected] to begin the process.
Our annual reports allow us to share what we are doing and the difference our work has in the lives of the women who come to us for assistance.
In addition, our financial reports demonstrate the most responsible way we use the money given to us to do our work. None of what we do, and hope to do, would be possible without the resources provided by people like you. Our work is far greater than what we can include in any report.
We are committed to transparency. For more detailed information on how we use the funds you generously donate, please either view our Audited Financial Statements below or visit our page on the Canada Revenue Agency site.
Annual Report | Financial Statements
Learn more about the Clinic’s operations, our numbers and objectives here
The Clinic is an Economic & Social Council-accredited organization in consultation with the United Nations. Through this designation, the Clinic participates in international events that advance social justice with a focus on gender.
We Need Your Support
Your support is important to the work we do today and every day.